Television

Situation Critical: 'Thunderbirds Are Go' Season 2 Preview

Fred McNamara

More practical effects and a grimmer tone in season two promise to build on the best of the rebooted series first season.


Thunderbirds Are Go

Cast: Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kayvan Novak, David Menkin, Teresa Gallagher, Rosamund Pike
Network: ITV
Amazon

Move over Terrahawks, there's a new jar of Marmite in Gerry Anderson town! When Thunderbirds Are Go blasted off our screens back in April 2015, fans of the original were left both bemused and somewhat uncharmed by the new series' spry skip, its CGI'd Tracy brothers, the lack of practical Thunderbird craft, and its condensed running time. Ultimately, the first half of season one left little to the imagination. Thunderbirds Are Go’s first 13 episodes were neither terrible nor particularly terrific. They were, perhaps, pedestrian. Nothing fantastic but nothing offensive, and the show's first half ultimately came and went with a thundering blast; however, its re-watch value was admittedly debatable.

Then, after a few months of calm skies, the second half of Thunderbirds Are Go's first season kicked off with a more ambitious and hook-laden flair. The sprawling action of "Falling Skies" blasted through a swimming pool submerged with leaves, leaving a far clearer pool behind.

Further adventures followed suit, building on a higher level of adventure, whilst striding along with more confident steps than before in crafting more foundations for Thunderbirds Are Go's own identity. This culminated in a riveting four-part finale, which saw The Hood (Andres Williams) unveil a devious and catastrophic masterplan that involved the secret between his and Kayo's (Angel Coulby) relationship reach boiling point and spill over into the otherwise harmonic Tracy family.

Now that Thunderbirds Are Go seems to have found its identity, what can we look forward to in season two? The most obvious talking point is what exactly International Rescue will be facing in their daily routine of saving the world.

Fans old and new went into something of an orgasmic meltdown when a behind-the-scenes picture of season two was released on social media, which showed a whopping Thunderbird 2 model in action, accompanied by the confirmation that season two will be taking even more pages out of the Supermarionation book than before, and will be utilizing more tangible models and miniatures, rather than splitting things between CGI and models fairly evenly.

Further behind-the-scenes images, teases, and rumours all point to season two building on the sense of adventure and action from season one towards the sky and beyond. The introduction of practical Thunderbird craft, rather than relying totally on CGI 'Birds, greatly implies that the production team behind the show are bigger fans of the original than we perhaps gave them credit for. After all, the joy of watching the original Thunderbirds was the fact that you were essentially witnessing grown men playing with toys, but they made it looks like the real thing. It's a testament to both the staying power of the original and the respect of the new crew that audiences will soon be experiencing real Thunderbird craft in action once more.

Moving beyond such surface level enjoyments of Thunderbirds Are Go, what might we be seeing story-wise? It's been a constant worry to many fans that this new Thunderbirds Are Go doesn't appear interested in either replicating or expanding on the original’s slow-burning, kidult nature in pace and story-telling. That being said, Thunderbirds Are Go's first season did give us something we never had in the original: a sense of closure.

Season one climaxes with not only International Rescue saving the day (duh!) but also successfully defeating and capturing The Hood. Not only a master of disguise like the original, this new Hood is much more of manipulative Lex Luthor-type business tycoon, criss-crossing the globe and stealing secrets that build on his maleficent empire.

His capture bookends with his emergence after a prolonged absence at the beginning of season one’s story, which involved his possible involvement in the disappearance of Jeff Tracy. Now that The Hood remains behind bars, who knows just how keen the Tracy brothers are in making him spill the beans over their lost dad?

Head writer Rob Hoegee has shown fans that he had a way of cherry-picking elements of the original series' narrative to create something fresh and modern. Season one’s finale revealed that The Hood is quite possibly only one of many deceptive agents in the world of 2060. (Even better? His codename is Agent 79, a little present for the die-hard fans!) His parting words in season one taunt a far greater danger to come. We never saw any development of The Hood's own world, other than his secondary title in the original series, but given how Thunderbirds Are Go has clearly demonstrated a commendable effort in rewarding fans with serial drama-esque plotlines, could we be seeing a type of danger International Rescue has never faced before?

Perhaps what we most desire from Thunderbirds Are Go's second season is balance. A balance between immersive storytelling that doesn’t lose sight of what makes Thunderbirds Are Go so heart-warming to watch, whatever incarnation it may take. Season one's finale ultimately felt like it took a few pages out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's style guide, giving us a Thanos-esque tease of an unprecedented enemy venturing their way towards the Tracy family. Hopefully, this will open the door to darker escapades and plot tactics that follow on from season one's four-part finale, which saw an overall story weave in and out of each other, eventually revealing something majestic.

At the same time, this manner of storytelling does have the potential to smother what makes International Rescue so special. Unlike Steve Zodiac, Troy Tempest, Paul Metcalfe, or Joe McClaine, the Tracy family never answered to some higher power. There's no omnipotent organisation set up to counter the dangers of the world of 2065; International Rescue is just one of many sub-outfits that operate under military or espionage rule.

In other words, International Rescue saves people simply because they can, often tangling with villains who wish to rupture the world also simply because they can. That reasoning for International Rescue's existence is still prevalent in the new Thunderbirds Are Go. They may now have an all-seeing, all-knowing ally in the Global Defence Force, but even then, they interact more as partners than superiors.

Several teaser images released by Thunderbirds Are Go's social media boffins, however, hint at a larger outfit gearing up to combat the vigilante idealism of International Rescue. These images display a grim logo of a spanner encased in lightning bolts, whilst another shows an unknown individual in an intense close-up, frowning, whilst covered by a mechanical mask.

Further images and teaser clips revealed this enemy’s name: The Mechanic. Who could this entity be? The lighting bolts suggest he may be based on the Zombites, the cult Egyptian mercenaries who shot down Scott Tracy in Thunderbird 1 during the classic original series episode "The Uninvited". However, his appearance bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Steelman, Lady Penelope's robotic arch nemesis from the '60s comic Lady Penelope, spun-off from the insanely popular TV21 (which gets a handsome little reference in the season two trailer).

Some outcries were heard upon The Mechanic's revelation. Although the addition of a regular enemy gives Thunderbirds Are Go something to drive towards, the internal logic of Thunderbirds Are Go may argue against The Mechanic's presence. International Rescue isn't an organisation dedicated to fighting bad guys; that’s the job of Spectrum, the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, the World Space Patrol, or the World Intelligence Network in the original series; in this version, the Global Defence Force. To have a fresh-faced enemy, complete with his own army of robotic gadgets, suggests ITV is keen to cash in on the toy-friendly appeal of the Thunderbirds. Given the commercial success Thunderbirds Are Go has met with since day one, you can't blame them.

Let's pause a moment, however, and reflect on this villain’s name: The Mechanic. It’s a name that suggests this is a very technologically driven villain, which is sure to be a snug fit for such a technologically driven show. Part of the endearing charm of the original Thunderbirds Are Go is how much emphasis there was on the technology of 2065 being a vital element of the show's very soul. The era of 2065 is saturated by technological wonders, a world where aircraft can fly six times the speed of sound, where space rockets can collect portions of the sun for human examination, and where buildings the size of villages can be moved to a new location without having to be dismantled.

Thunderbirds Are Go replicates that world by updating the retro-futuristic nature of a 2065 built from 1965, whilst pulling it closer still by chopping down five years off its target. The world of 2060 is a world where hotels have the ability to traverse the depths of space, where quantum particles are being created and used for the benefit of mankind, and where near-fully automated mining machines are extracting materials from asteroids.

We now appear to have an enemy who is set to subvert that world for their own gain, whilst at the same time, tearing International Rescue apart from, quite literally, the inside. The smouldering grit of the original series may have been replaced by a more polished, spry skip, but there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that Thunderbirds Are Go's second season will exploit the theme of rampant technology to a degree that rivals the original.

By putting that rampant technology concept in the hands of an actual character rather than the technology alone, it offers a nice tie-in to how Thunderbirds Are Go has emphasised the charisma of the Tracy brothers. Following on from season one’s dramatic, character-led plot finale, could we be seeing more of that pocket-sized character development?

In this age of reboot culture, we're all perhaps a little guilty of setting our standards too high. If a new incarnation of your favourite show or film is perceived by the individual as being anything less than equal in terms of quality, there’s a tendency to write it off as a total failure. The new Thunderbirds Are Go may have eschewed the cinematic breadth of the original incarnation, but in its place a sly, quicksilver yet heartfelt reimagining blasts off from beneath the swimming pool and soars into the skies.

That slick pace, however, seems to be taking a far grimmer tone for season two. Trailers, images, and character descriptions hint at dark times ahead for International Rescue. The billowing, morosely coloured clouds that envelop Tracy Island at the climax of "Legacy" may well be returning. With them, they bring The Mechanic, an enemy prepared to sabotage International Rescue from within. Thunderbirds may well be go, but for season two, a more appropriate tagline might be "Thunderbirds are in danger".


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